Reference by Abbott Barbara Kenyon;

Reference by Abbott Barbara Kenyon;

Author:Abbott, Barbara Kenyon;
Language: eng
Format: epub
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Published: 2010-02-11T16:00:00+00:00

7.3.2 Bare NPs—Carlson’s analysis

We noted above that plurals and mass nouns shared the property of denoting lattice-like structures. As we saw in Chapter 1, they also share the property of being able to serve as head noun in a determinerless, or “bare,” NP in English, as shown in (14) and (15).

(14) a. God didn’t make little green apples.

b. Little green apples lay on the ground in front of me.

(15) a. Milk from Shetler’s Dairy tastes better.

b. This time I bought milk from Shetler’s Dairy.

One interesting problem presented by bare NPs is that sometimes they seem to receive a generic interpretation, as in (14a) and (15a), and sometimes an existential one, as in (14b) and (15b). One of Carlson’s insights was that this difference in interpretation is determined by the type of predication being expressed. The (a) examples in (14) and (15) predicate properties which an entity has on a more or less permanent basis; Carlson called such properties INDIVIDUAL-LEVEL properties. Thus being tall or intelligent, being made (or not made) by God, and tasting better, are all individual-level properties—properties which something has over a long period or permanently. On the other hand the (b) examples involve predication of properties which an entity has for a relatively short amount of time, and Carlson called these STAGE-LEVEL properties; so lying on the ground, being bought or sold, or smiling, are all stage-level properties which hold of something only temporarily.9

The term “stage” was inspired by W. V. Quine’s (1960) discussion of the possibility of viewing ordinary physical entities as four-dimensional sequences of their momentary instantiations, or stages. Carlson proposed that stage-level properties are predicated, not of individuals as wholes, but only of time slices or time segments—stages—of individuals. On the other hand individual-level properties are predicated of individuals as a whole.10 To connect individuals with their temporal stages, Carlson postulated a REALIZATION relation R. With that relation Carlson was able to distinguish individual-level (characterizing) predication from stage-level predication. Thus the individual-level (16a) would be represented as (16b), but the stage-level (17a) receives the interpretation sketched in (17b).

(16) a. Bill is tall.

b. tall(Bill).

(17) a. Bill is in the saloon.

b. λy[∃x[R(x, y) & in-the-saloon(x)]](Bill)

Tallness is predicated of Bill as a whole, while being in the saloon is predicated of one of the stages which realizes Bill. (Note that this view of individuals is very much in tune with our earlier suggestions that individuals like Bill be viewed as intensional entities—functions from world-time points to extensions. Carlson (1989) makes this idea explicit.)

Carlson proposed that KINDS of things, like cows and bicycles, are also individuals—different from ordinary, non-kind individuals in being scattered over, not only times, but also places. Both types of individuals—ordinary entities, and kinds of things—are realized by stages of entities. And finally, Carlson argued that bare NPs behave semantically like proper names of kinds. Thus a generic sentence like (18a) would receive an analysis like (18b).

(18) a. Cows are four-legged.

b. four-legged(cows)

On the other hand an existential example like (19a) would receive the interpretation shown in (19b).


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